Discourse on Colonialism

by Aimé Césaire

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How are Cesaire’s ideas of colonialism and imperialism relevant to African liberators today?


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In his Discourse on Colonialism, Césaire talks at length about how imperialism both exploits the colonized and corrupts the soul of the colonizer. In some cases, the oppressor makes no promises to the oppressed and simply takes what he wants in the form of human bodies, natural resources, trade routes, and cultural treasure. Césaire argues that this is a more honest transaction than that of the oppressor who promises something in return for his plunder. Some examples of these false promises include military protection, infrastructure, capital, or some form of salvation.

I believe the reference to the African liberator is taken from Mmusi Maimane's 2015 speech in Senegal. When accepting the African Freedom Award on behalf of his organization the Democratic Alliance, the South African organization of which he is the leader, Maimane pointed out that time after time, so-called liberators are elected to rule African nations on false promises. The liberators speak of delivering opportunity, infrastructure, and economic stability to their respective nations, but inevitably, these leaders are corrupt, leaving their nations in the same or worse straits than before.

In this context, Africa's so-called liberators are actually co-conspirators in the continued oppression of African nations. Because these leaders make false promises to gain control and then use their positions for personal gain, they are the same as the oppressors Césaire speaks of.

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